In the first video, I used the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastels (Bronze, Raw Sienna and Toledo Brown) over simple patterns I drew with a white Pablo pencil. I had to keep moving my desk lamp around so I could see the white lines I was drawing on the white paper. It was a little challenging! I then blended the pastels with a Caran d’Ache medium tip water brush. The Bronze Neocolor is just beautiful with a slight metallic shimmer. Instead of coloring the pastels directly on the paper (which could mar the white lines I had drawn), I used a blade to shave a little of the pastel onto a palette and mixed with a little water before applying my colors to the paper.
Neocolor II pastel shavings: a little goes a long way, so if you are interested in investing in a set it’s good to know this in advance. I was gifted this gorgeous set of pastels by a dear fan friend and just adore them—rich, beautiful creamy colors!
The mouse is all done for now so I wanted to add one last time-lapse and a photo of the finished piece:
I added subtle bits of color to the mouse and then used gel pens to add more small designs and embellishments. I got a little sloppy with the large “fish-scale” heart … can I blame it on cold hands and eyeglasses that need a good cleaning?
Volume 2 is finally done and residing on Amazon as a link you can click to purchase a book full of coloring goodness—especially when paired with Volume 1 (see a review of V1 here). I ran into a few issues during this project and they set me back in regard to time, but I think it was worth the wait. The books are done and I am ready to work on an Art Journal companion that should dovetail nicely with the adult coloring books.
The upcoming Companion will be more like a journal (similar to a bullet journal) with plenty of room to write, calendars, and lists for those who love coloring and art in general. There will also be lots of little illustrations to color and doodle around with, so stay tuned! The tentative release is late October / early November—definitely in time for the holidays!
Volume 2 of the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal
Paisley Fox page from the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal, Volume 2
There’s a new addition to the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop and I really enjoyed completing the line art for this one. I had roughly sketched the bear months ago, but then it sat neglected in a folder on my iPad. A few days ago, I pulled it up and was inspired to finish it off for inclusion in my new set of books which will be offered on Amazon soon.
The Bear with Fish will be included in Volume 1, but it is also available on Etsy right now as an instantly downloadable PDF for coloring. Two pages are included in the file–the black line illustration and also a grey-line version in case you enjoy working with lighter lines.
Here’s a sample of the color test I did of this design – it is still a work in progress and might be for some time since I’ve really got to get back to the books and finish them up for a September release.
I started with lots of light layers with the Luminance pencils, then worked in my Polychromos for variations in color and more blending. The Irojitens pencils were used to burnish and set my colors. When I have a chance, I plan to use Neocolor II pastels for the background.
The past month has been busy for the Ruby Charm Colors project. In addition to working on an upcoming book (which has somehow morphed into two 100+ page volumes) I’ve created a few new illustrations for my Etsy shop and have released several sets of cards for coloring.
The first illustration I completed was actually started a few months ago and was a special request by a fan, Lucia, who is now on my coloring team. Lucia’s Crestie gecko, Nacho, was the inspiration for this illustration and I finally got around to finishing up the background in July. The gecko itself was done quite some time ago, but as with several of my mini projects, sometimes they fall by the wayside until I have a reminder to git ‘er done, as they say. The line art, if you would like to color this finished design yourself, can be found here in the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop.
I started coloring this illustration using a mix of Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels and colored pencils. I had ordered about 8 individual (open-stock) pastels from Blick to try them out as I had seen a number of beautiful colorings on Instagram and Facebook using the Neocolors. I was attracted to their intense hues and how they appeared to blend really well. I used Turquoise, Chromium Oxide Green, Olive Brown, and Fast Orange for the background, sun and leaves for this piece. Though it was my first time using the pastels and I was still getting the hang of blending them with my Kurtake and Aquash Pentel water brushes, I was pretty happy with the outcome and decided to order a set of the Neocolors through Amazon so I would have more colors to work with in future projects.
Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Once the pastels dried, I started going over different areas of the illustration with a mix of colored pencils – mostly Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo pencils, Polychromos, and Prismacolors. Once my overall colors were in place (lots and lots of layers as usual) I started burnishing the colors using my Irojiten pencils.
Close-up of Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
The final step for the gecko was to add small embellishments with Sakura Souffle gel pens. This piece has a long way to go before it’s complete, so it’s now living in one of my “unfinished projects” folders for safe-keeping. I am sure I’ll pull it back out again when I have some free time.
Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Lora King
The next illustration I completed recently was the Toutterkoi. It started out as a butterfly but I added a toucan’s face to the tips of the wings on a lark. It was weird but I liked it enough and decided to work in some koi on the bottom wings and tail. I really enjoyed fitting creatures into the butterfly and had fun color-testing this piece with a mix of Polychromos, Prismacolors and Irojitens. I really appreciate the sharp tips I can get on the Irojiten pencils for small details.
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Vanessa Black
Paula Leach used Schpirerr Farben pencils for her Toutterkoi. Using a blend of greys moves her fronds to the background while the brighter colors move the Tourrtekoi forward.
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Paula Leach
Here is a close-up of Paula’s work including her signature sparkles as embellishments on the body and wings – lovely color choices.
Close-up of the Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Paula Leach
My next project consisted of modifying some of my line art to make greeting cards that can be printed at home, colored and given away. There are 6 designs in the first set: Little Bird; Horse with Flowers; Insects; Lion, Hare and Moon; Mice in Freesia; and Spring Hare.
Little Bird line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
After that, I modified a collection of my moth and butterfly illustrations and turned them into greeting cards, too. This set of 8 designs can be printed at home (card stock is best), trimmed to size and colored with your favorite media.
So about the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels …. I did order a set of 40 off of Amazon and I was so excited to get them in the mail. After opening the box and grabbing a few pastels to try out of a scrap of paper, though, my heart sank. They did not blend at all with my water brush. What the hell? And then it dawned on me … I had mistakenly ordered the Neocolor I pastels (which happen to be water-resistant) instead of the Neocolor II pastels which are meant to be blended with water! The Neocolor I pastels are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but they were not what I needed. I repacked the box and sent them back.
If you order Neocolors through Amazon, be sure you are ordering the correct type of pastel you need (I or II)! The item description did not specify which set I was ordering, and since there was a picture of paintbrushes next to the pastels, I assumed I was getting the watercolors. Nope.
Just a few days later I opened my mailbox to discover a rather large and heavy package inside. I carefully slid it out (because I didn’t want the ginormous black spider who has taken up residence in said mailbox to hitch a ride on my package). It was a full set of gorgeous Neocolor II pastels gifted to me by a dear fellow artist! I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that someone would send me art supplies – such a thoughtful and generous gesture and I am still in awe. i got to work right away using the pastels (and some colored pencils) to color in one of the greeting cards I designed as a thank card.
Horse with flowers line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Horse with flowers line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, finished card colored by the artist
So that’s what I’ve been up to the past few weeks. My gardens are going wild and I really need to do more weeding, my tomatoes are finally ripening, the cicadas are buzzing, and I have fresh flowers in the kitchen each day.
Now back to the business of making the book(s), and I’ll have a teaser about that in the coming days ….
Flowers from my gardens-gone-wild: Tree Lily, Phlox, Lavender, Day Lily, Crocosmia, and Jerusalem Artichokes
I’ve probably colored this horse illustration (which I designed as a coloring page) at least three times now, though I’ve finished none. Yet. I get sidetracked with new projects and once set aside, a colored illustration might not see the light of day for months. But I do like to experiment with different color schemes and I use the partially colored pieces in various marketing efforts, so the work is never wasted. This one might end up on a tote bag or some other product if it turns out the way I am hoping.
I printed this horse on charcoal tinted card stock (not quite as dark) so I could play with some warm colors. I am still patiently waiting for warmer weather, green grass and yard work in a t-shirt. April has been especially cold so far and I am feeling it.
My first step for this piece was to use my Holbein Naples Yellow pencil to lightly fill in the body areas of the horse. Just one layer to help define the spaces around the flowers, leaves and mane before using a little Holbein Salmon Pink to build up my base (video below). After that, I grabbed a Caran d’Ache Luminance Yellow Ochre to add a little more pigment to these areas.
Once I had the body a little more defined, I started adding more Luminance Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna and Orange to the horse’s face using small, light circular motions and feathered strokes. In some ways, taking pics of this process with my iPhone can be helpful because the lens catches all of the pencils marks so you can see how “rough” the coloring looks at this point.
I didn’t do it in this video (because I was afraid I end up with a chaotic recording) but I move my page around. A lot. When I rotate my page, it helps me color at slightly different and over-lapping angles and this, ultimately, helps to not only blend but also fill in some of the black spots that appear under the pencil layers. Not sure how you work, but I find taping my art to a board is too constrictive.
You can see, in the photo below, the difference between my first layer of Holbein and the face where I am starting to build my layers. I used Luminance Alizarin Crimson along the inside edge of the swirl on the cheek and worked some of it up into the areas under the mane, then started blending with more Orange as well as Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna. Luminance Buff Titanium was used at the tips of the ears, along the lightest edge of the cheek swirl, around the eye, and also in the lighter areas of the nose. I like the Luminance Titanium Buff over the White pencil since it seems to naturally blend better, but when I really want a white to stand out, it’s hard to beat Luminance White.
One note about the paper. It is Recollections brand from Michael’s and I pick up packages of 50 sheets when they go on sale. They offer both solid color packs as well as mixed collections. The charcoal grey I am using is from the Architecture collection. It handles most of my pencils fairly well, though I have noticed differences in tooth between different Recollections color collections. Mostly consistent, but not always–just an FYI.
The good news is that this paper is acid and lignin free meaning there are no chemicals that will eventually cause the paper (and consequently your artwork) to deteriorate. If you are coloring just for fun, using paper that is acidic or contains lignen is probably not a big deal … but if you want your work to last over the years, always look for “archival” quality paper or stock (meaning it is acid and lignen free).
After I warmed up the horse’s face with about six or seven light layers of yellows, orange and red Luminance, I worked with Polychromos Dark Chrome Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Orange Glaze and Middle Cadmium Red is small light circles “pushing” the Luminance pigments deeper into the paper. Oh, and a Derwent Studio Burnt Carmine pencil for the darkest edges. It is a brownish-purple-red tone that really helps to add depth in the more shadowed areas.
Funny how we all seem to have a collection of serious go-to pencils … I love all my pencils but my “can’t live without” and “worn to a nub quickest” pencils are as follows:
Polychromos Chrome Oxide Green, Olive Green Yellowish, Cobalt Turquoise, Dark Red, Bistre (I get these through Blick, open stock as well)
There are probably a few more I am forgetting, but these pencils get used a lot due to their colors, but more because of their ability to blend and define the way I need them to.
One interesting thing I have noticed about colored pencils is that after a period of “rest” (and I know this sounds crazy), it is easier to add new layers. My theory is that after a few hours or so, the waxes and oils from the pencils on the paper somehow relax (or more fully attach to the paper) and it becomes a little easier to apply new colors. I tried to find out if there is something to this, but didn’t spend much time searching on Google. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?
I then started working on the leaves and mane (below) using mostly greens: Luminance Olive Yellow, Olive Brown 50%, Olive Brown, Moss and Dark Sap Green. I also used a little Spring Green at the tips. Again, very light layers and not a lot of concern about “perfection” yet. My layers are starting to blend a little (see photo below), but you can still see a lot of strokes and where I started using the Luminance Prussian blue in the darkest areas. I used Prussian blue instead of black (or Dark Sap Green) because it adds a more rich and varied tone to the piece overall. It also contrasts nicely with the warm hues. Using the Irojiten Indigo pencil in the deepest areas adds a little more definition, and I plan to go back to those areas before the piece is finished.I used my black Verithin pencil to start adding some definition to the eyes, swirl, nose and mouth features. I’ll likely go back to those lines at a later time, too.
I couldn’t resist adding a little Prismacolor Light Aqua into the small circles on the mane because I love the way it looks with green–a nice little accent of color. The next step was to start filling in the flowers. I knew I wanted to work in some purples and almost went with a purple and blue combination, but decided to stay true to the warmer hues (aside from the turquoise accents). I tested a few colors on the back of my paper and fell in love with how Prismacolor Black Cherry, Tuscan Red, Crimson Lake and Pumpkin Orange worked together.
I put down a light layer of Black Cherry (which has a purple tone) and then graduated layers of the other three colors to the tips of the petals. Still not blended yet and that’s especially apparent in the harsh light of the iPhone. To really bring out the purple and give the innermost parts of the petals more depth, I used Irojiten Mulberry and Iris Violet pencils to start pushing my colors together. At this point, I try not to apply too much pressure with the Irojiten pencils. They are pretty hard, and if I use too much pressure, burnishing occurs. This is fine in the final steps of my coloring process, but since I may come back to the flowers with more layers, I am not yet ready to burnish (which can really lock in a layer and make it almost impossible to color over unless you use a fixative which I don’t do).
Now that I’ve got the basic colors of the flowers colored, I go back to the yellows in the body. Basically, I just refine the yellows with more layers and add a little more orange so these areas don’t end up looking too flat.
I also used my black Verithin to add filament lines, and Luminance Olive Brown to add a quick layer around the center circle of the flowers. Prismacolor Pumpkin was used for the centers. It may not see like it makes much of a difference, but a little squiggle of Irojiten Crimson along a few edges of the Pumpkin add a little depth and interest. And to balance out my accent color, I used the Prismacolor Light Aqua again for the flower anthers. Here is a close up:
The video clip below shows how I use the black Irojiten pencil to define the leaves a bit (the Verithin black works too). I never realized, until I started recording myself coloring, how I continually spin my pencil as I color. For certain areas, it’s important to have a sharp point, so I think I do this subconsciously in order to avoid dulling my pencil tips. In addition to defining the leaves, I used Sepia and a little Prussian Blu (both Luminance) to create more shadow around the belly and legs. And a little black Irojiten to further blend.
When people talk about the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils being creamy, I don’t see it. These oil pencils are highly pigmented and fabulous, but I feel they are more gritty than creamy. And this is good and serves a purpose as they can help blend by breaking up the waxes from other pencils and move them around on an almost microscopic level. I’ve noticed I really love the way they behave on certain papers while on others, they tend to be a little more temperamental. Especially when combined with more waxy pencils. And it’s hard to predict so experimenting is key. When I am working on a new paper (or on the same paper but from a different batch), I always test out how different pencil brands will (or will not) play together first. Most mistakes can be fixed, but I have made of mess of things enough to be a little more careful. Ever have an area you are coloring turn to a glob of colors that refuse to blend and just clump up? No fun.
After I defined the leaves a bit, I grabbed my Rotring Isograph technical pen and realized it was almost empty. I wanted to use it around parts of the flowers, but had to do a refill first. Always a messy job:
Post pen-filling: I am not too happy with the results –my lines look too harsh (especially in photographs) but I can probably fix that and do a little more blending with the Mulberry Irojiten pencil. No worries–I’ll go back to it later.
Instead, I grabbed a white Soufflé gel pen (Sakura) to add dots to the anthers and a few on the horse’s face, and blue and copper metallic gel pens to add dots around the centers of the flowers. And a few Sakura Soufflé turquoise dots to the mane…
The art doesn’t look as harsh in person. Anyone who has tried photographing colored pencil on a dark background (especially when there are metallics involved) knows what I am talking about. I don’t have the right lighting in my studio and I get a lot of glare. I keep a few small gooseneck lamps on my desk and am constantly moving them around to get the best light when I am coloring, but have to turn them off when I take pictures. Someday I’ll get that all figured out.
I can’t imagine coloring on anything other than this old artist board (below) I bought back in college. I keep a small brass sharpener in a dish handy, as well as a brush to flick off any junk that lands on my paper and keep the wax bloom at bay.
Once I have a bunch of pencils I’ve pulled out of my cases to work with on a given piece, I store them in a tin drawer so I can keep track of them when I come back to the drawing. I used to write my colors down, but I don’t anymore.
Here is where I am leaving off on this piece for now. I have plenty more to do and will post a follow-up when I have a chance. For now, off to book work and and other tasks that need my attention…
Please feel free to leave questions or comments –I am always curious to learn how others tackle their art and channel their creativity, and no question is too silly. I may not have the answers, but I’ll give it an honest try.
I feel very lucky to have seen African wild dogs (also called painted dogs or painted wolves) at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe over twenty years ago. Even then, their numbers were perilously low and the park rangers said we were very fortunate to have seen them in the wild.
I love how unique each dog’s splotchy-spotty coat is, and their rounded upright ears. The dogs I drew somehow morphed into leafy, flowery specimens … but I like to let my imagination run where it wants to more often than not.
After the black and white illustration was completed (about 14 hours from idea sketches to final product), I printed a copy on grey card stock, then got out my watercolor pencils to give the sky some color using Albrecht Dürer 154 Kobalttürkis Hell (aka Light Cobalt Turquoise) by Faber-Castell.
I was a little sloppy with the turquoise, but once I add more color with my regular colored pencils, it will all come together. I used Caran d’Ache Luminance (I get mine as open stock through Blick) as well as Faber-Castell Polychromos and Tombow Irojiten pencils for the dog so far. As much as I dream about having full sets of my favorite pencils, I prefer purchasing them “open stock” so I can get the colors I use most. I have quite a few pink pencils that have been used only once – to make a color chart. I don’t dislike pinks necessarily … I just rarely think about using them.
Does anyone else love the Luminance Titanium Buff pencil as much as I do for blending and highlighting?
It will be a while before I have time to finish this piece. In the meantime, the illustration is now available in my Etsy shop as an instantly downloadable and printable PDF if you would like to play around with whichever color scheme appeals to you. And if you are not sure about colors (or which pencils or papers to use), print a few copies and play around until you are happy with the results (the beauty of PDF coloring pages).
Less expensive than a bag of chips and far healthier for you. 😉
Oh why didn’t I title this one March Hare when I had the chance? Too late now … it’s up on Etsy and ready for your coloring enjoyment!
I spent about 12 hours on this illustration from rough sketch to finished black and white line drawing and it was an enjoyable piece to work on … though all the curls and leaves of the fiddle-head ferns caused my hands to cramp up last night. Oh to be young again with better eyesight, too. My glasses are getting a little loose and I am tired of continually pushing them back up my nose.
I was thinking about the Easter bunny the other day and how rotten it is that I lied to my daughter about the Easter Bunny (and Santa for that matter) yet try to teach her that lying is wrong. What’s wrong with that picture? At any rate, I’ve been wanting to draw fiddle-head ferns and thought this would make a good composition for a coloring page – Easter and Spring themed without the plastic eggs and candy.
I started to color the illustration in (partly to test out the design but also to have a partially colored piece to show in my Etsy listing) and used a base layer of Caran d’Ache Museum, Faber-Castell Albrect Durer, and Staedtler Aquarelle (though mine are very old) watercolor pencils. I blended with a water brush, and then once it dried, started refining and blending with layers of colored pencils (mostly the same brands plus Prismacolor and Irojiten pencils). I also hit it with a few dabs of Sakura Souffle gel pens. It will be a while before this one is done – too much on my plate to play – but it was fun to get a start on it. And this rabbit’s face just makes me giggle.
Going Digital: First coloring book now available as a downloadable, printable series of PDFs!
The cover of Ruby Charm: 25 illustrations for coloring enthusiasts, collection no. 1
I was a little worried about making my first book of illustrations available for download, mostly due to stories about other artists seeing their work appear in places they never authorized and having their hard work stolen. Either people who steal the art don’t realize how many hours go into a drawing (plus the added expense of materials, marketing, etc.) or they simply just don’t care. Either way, it had given me pause and I’ve been reluctant to give it a go. Until now.
I’ve gotten to know a number of people in the coloring community over the past year and have faith that people will do the right thing. And I believe in karma. So I took all of the illustrations from my original spiral-bound book and put them into a series of 5 PDFs (plus two of my newer drawings, Autumn Cat and Paisley Fox) and made the digital version of my book available through my Etsy shop. Exciting times! This will benefit my overseas customers who have found that shipping the physical book is almost as much as a copy of the book itself!
The original spiral-bound book is still available through Etsy as the “Artist’s Edition” and each one is personally assembled and signed by me. My first batch of copies had sold out, but my dear local printer ran off another batch (on high-quality 80# Lynx card stock) and I assembled and bound them at home–just like the first batch.
Heading to Amazon!
I am also in the process of creating an expanded version of my original book through CreateSpace on Amazon. It has been a time-consuming process and I am running a little behind the schedule I set for myself, but I am pretty happy with the draft. The primary illustrations are plates (printed on one side of the page only since bleed-through can be an issue on lower quality papers) but there are pages in between that will contain stories, new small drawings you can use to plan out your colors for the actual plates, coloring tips and a collection of color charts (I think about 10) that you can fill in with your own colors at the back of the book.
I asked colorists on social media about their thoughts related to CreateSpace paper and was surprised to hear how many people really liked it. Far many more than I imagined. Others said the paper wasn’t ideal, but that they copied illustrations from their books onto the paper of their choice anyway (and kept the books uncolored), so paper quality wasn’t a big deal. That surprised me, too–how many people kept a copy of a book untouched so that they could make new copies of drawings they wanted to try again. Smart! And then there were a few people who said they absolutely hated CreateSpace paper and completely avoided books published through CreateSpace. Which was what I expected would be the overwhelming majority of responses to my query. But since the mix seemed all over the board, and since I wanted to be able to get my books overseas more easily and affordably plus have more exposure through Amazon (a girl’s got to make a living), I decided to add the CreateSpace book to my collection.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on the book, creating the cover, and wrapping up a number of small new illustrations to add into the mix. I’ll post an announcement on my blog as well as on my Instagram and Faceboook accounts when it is ready!